FAQ’s on Lumbar Sympathetic Block

The sympathetic nervous system of the body is located within the lumbar region of the spinal column (the lower back), and controls the involuntary actions and responses of a patient’s body. This includes bodily functions such as the heart rate, temperature of the body, and control of the blood vessels.

Patients who are having an over-activity of the lumbar nerve cluster may experience cycles of unconscious activity leading to symptoms of pain. A Lumbar Sympathetic Block administered to these patients may be able to provide relief by numbing the lumbar nerves, which will inhibit their ability of sending pain signals to the brain.

What will a Lumbar Sympathetic Block Treat?

Patients who are experiencing pain in any area that is controlled by the lumbar nerve cluster may be able to find relief from the administration of this block.

Patients suffering from RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), blood vessel spasms, excessive sweating, pain from chronic cases of shingles, and phantom pains following an amputation are able to find relief with this block.

How is a Lumbar Sympathetic Block performed?

There are two sympathetic nerve clusters along the spine that may cause complications for the patient, with multiple clusters located in the lumbar region (the lower back) and one cluster in the cervical region (the neck). The nerve cluster to be blocked will vary depending on what symptoms the patient is exhibiting, with abdominal and leg pain treated by a lumbar block.

Once a patient has been diagnosed with a condition that can have relief provided through a lumbar sympathetic block the actual injection procedure can start. Nervous blocks in this manner are simply outpatient procedures performed with the patient under local anesthetic, and pose very little risk to the patient.

The location of the injection will vary depending on the block required, where the needle will be guided into the patient with fluoroscopic imaging to ensure accuracy. In many cases a bilateral (two needles) approach is used during these blocks, with one needle on either side of the spine, in order to best deliver the numbing agent into the nerve cluster. In many cases, a lumbar nervous block can be performed for a patient in as little as 30 minutes.

How well do Lumbar Sympathetic Blocks work?

Assuming the needles have been placed correctly, the effects of the block can be felt as soon as the numbing agent is injected into the nerve clusters. Patients who are receiving this block as treatment for constricted blood vessels will typically notice arise in body temperature before they are even able to leave the clinic, with most patients seeing as much as a 2 degree rise during this time. Patients receiving this block for phantom amputation pains are able to obtain a feeling of limb completion as soon as the numbing agent takes effect. A lumbar sympathetic block, if effective, can normally provide relief that lasts months at a time. It is also a procedure that can be repeated as often as required to maintain relief for the patient.

What are the risks of a Lumbar Sympathetic Block?

Every needle-based treatment has risks associated with it. These include pain and swelling at the injection site, redness of the skin at this same site, and a possible allergic reaction to the agent used within the needle.

There is a small chance, and it is rare, for the needles to be placed incorrectly resulting in the possible unwanted blocking of additional nerves.

What is the bottom line with Lumbar Sympathetic Blocks?

This is a very simple procedure that can be performed quickly and result in immediate relief for the patient with very little risk of negative effects.